Saturday, 27 April 2013

Up close .... with fire (and snakes)

the melting snow means PLENTY of water - and the warmth means bugs and other animals are waking up - Michael heaven. Large amounts of time are spent looking for bugs, frogs and toads. Here you can also see the bonfire to be - usually it should burn on the April 30th as part of Valborg (Walpurgis Celebration) - but we do it now, as there are more people and more time to take care of the fire in a safe way.

using the saw to remove unwanted trees from the meadow

great feeling to see butterflies - SPRING!!!

preparing the sticks to grill sausages with later


Michael still searching - using a squirter to collect water for the waterbugs he's finding
out in the reeds the lake meets the melt water - and at the time of year the pikes come into the shallows to "play". So interesting to hear your own children excitedly calling out about various animals mating. learning about the circle of life...

snake rescue - no-one fancied BBQ snake so this little charmer got moved to a safer location

first row to watch the fire. The great part of BIG bonfires is that it generates so much heat that the children instinctively know to keep at a safe distance - this has always been, even since they were toddlers. It was interesting to hear how they discussed the colours, the shape and the sounds of the fire. It really does roar!

they also experimented with their sunglasses - each pair producing a slightly different effect!

making "stick-bread" which is essentially water, flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Usually you wrap it around a stick and then cook it over the fire - but this time we wrapped it around sausages - important to get the bread as thin as possible around the sausage so that it all cooks through...
grilling the sausages on the bonfire, once it has died down... always interesting for children to learn that even though the flames have died down, the heat has not, and that by adding more dry wood/sticks the flames start to dance again. The children learn about what is needed to create fire - but also what to do if you catch on fire (drop and roll) - as well as learning about what clothes to wear - no synthetics that can melt onto the skin!! Its great to play with fire, but you have to play safely.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

printing a meadow...

Our spring meadow needed flowers and since it has been Earth Day this week, why not use junk and get creative with recycling?

Toilet and kitchen rolls were pre-prepared for this group of three and four year olds so that they could create a small meadow scene each as well as printing flowers on the BIG meadow we made together a couple of weeks ago.

The aim of this art session was not only to be creative, but also to put motor skills to the test and to support planning skills - the children had to think about what they were going to do, but still with the freedom to be creative...


one of the kitchen rolls was prepared by wrapping string round and round, criss-crossing over and over several times. This was rolled into yellow/green paint and then onto the paper...



...this trains hand-eye coordination as well as wrist and finger control. It was interesting to see how some of the children started close to them and rolled away from them, while others started at the opposite end and rolled towards them (it turned out that the two left handed children rolled towards... would be interested to see if this would happen again...). It was also interesting to observe how the children solved the problem of areas that did not get paint (as the technique requires movement and pressure, which is not THAT easy for young children) - some fixed it by rolling back and forth a few times, while others lifted the roller and replaced it where the paint stated to be missed and rolled again.

then it was time to print. There were four rolls cut into different flower shapes in four different colours (each was at least two colours as we had observed that flowers are never just one colour, but tend to be several colours or several shades of the same colour). The children could print the maximum of 10 flowers - which meant they had to make choices - were they going to make all ten, or another number? How many of each flowers type? Was it important to have all types?
All but one child did 10 flowers, who did 8 and then felt that the paper was filled enough. All children but one made 2 or 3 prints of each flower, that exception printed 8 purple and 2 red/yellow flowers. All created their own unique flower meadow despite the fact that the materials offered were the exact same. 
one of the finished pieces.
it was then time to work on the BIG meadow. The children looked at me with wide eyes as I moved the table up close and said that we would need to climb up to be able to reach... STAND on the table!!! This was exciting stuff. One of the children decided it was safer to sit on the table and printed flowers at the bottom of the painting - the other's though tested to see how high they could reach. This time they could choose 1-4 prints of each flower, and they needed to decide before hand. This was to support the children in their planning skills as well as bringing maths into the art. For one child it was VERY hard to stop at the number decided and did an extra flower each time before being reminded by the others. None of the children decided to make four prints of each flower - they all varied the amounts and none of the rolls was preferred more than another...
as the rolls got wetter with paint, the more they started to curls and the children needed to use their fingers to ensure a good flower print came onto the green background
stage two of our spring meadow...

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Rain

My heart sank this morning - it was raining.

Not so much because we can't have fun outside in the rain, because we can - there is mud, puddles etc etc to investigate and explore...

... but because I know there is always at least one child that is not properly equipped. And the Swedish saying "there is no bad weather only bad clothing" is oh so true. If the children are not properly dressed then the cold wet rain is just not as fun (or at least not for long).

I like summer rain - its not as cold - but still if we are on a full day excursion or a full morning excursion you still want to be properly equipped 1-2 hours (or 4-5) of being wet does end up feeling rather cold (well at least here in Sweden) - and VERY cold at this time of the year.

Luckily the rain stopped - so the rain did not effect us, but there were puddle benefits... which was just as well as not all children had rain gear with them (snow gear yes, which isn't waterproof).

In Sweden it is the parents that are responsible for supplying all the right clothes... to ensure there are waterproofs and enough appropriate clothing for the weather... which means creating an inclusive preschool can be tricky at times when a child simply does not have the right clothing (they may then have to stay indoors with another group - or we have to shorten the length of our stay outdoors, - or when just one child is in running shoes and the rest are in boots and are able to splash in puddles - do you let them splash and get wet and cold or... none of the options feel optimal).

I also find season changes the worst times for clothing - that some children wear their winter clothes too long into spring and sweat while others are sporting summer clothes prematurely and are freezing... then there is the issue of children GROWING (I mean what is with that, and do they have to grow SO MUCH??!!) and clothes that are too big or too small do effect motor skills, comfort and ease of getting clothes on and off yourself...

oh yeah - and my pet hate - lace-up shoes. FINE when there is one child, but a gaggle of children with lace-ups and none of them with the motor skills and know-how to fasten them - personally it does my nut in!
My poor children were not allowed lace-ups until they could prove to me that they could manage (I mean I could hardly burden their preschool teachers with my pet hate...), mind you once they got their first pair the thrill wore off after a day or two when they realised it took them longer to get them on and off. Michael turns nine this week - he STILL does not want lace-ups - he wants SPEEDY shoes that are easy to get on and off - and I think this is something all preschoolers (and preschool teachers) have the right to!!

So there - I have said it!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Up close... with nature

nature has been an important part of our lives - for the girls, their first nature experiences were in Australia, where we lived for the second half of their first year - here face to face with crimson rosellas in the Dandenongs.
finding berries around out little country home (a 35sqm little house with a sleeping loft over half of it) is another early nature experience for our children - here you see wild strawberries being threaded on a straw of grass.
when we are there we have access to the lake (the house is in the woods, next to the lake) where there are opportunities for swimming, discovering wildlife and fishing - everything slows down... there is time to hear and to experience
in the meadow outside the house during the summer are cows - these are famous organic cows - the pictures of them are on the sides of the lorries delivering milk - its funny because my children can name the cows on the lorries...
having cows so close means there is the chance to see how animals are born, and to help out when nosey cows come to check out the newborn... also to discover that its a funny feeling when a calf sucks on your fingers...
being out in the woods means that we get other visitors sometimes too!
one of Michael's favourite past-times when he is there is to look for frogs and toads...

and he has great enthusiasm to check EVERYWHERE for them, discovering many other things on the way
when we go on holiday nature is never far away - here the girls are singing in the mountains - we are literally on top of a mountain here in Austria

the great part of mountains in Austria are the mountain huts, and just how family friendly they are. Not only do you get the chance to walk and experience nature, but at the mountain huts there is not only the chance for food and drink, but most often a playground and animals... here the goats take the girls by surprise...

and then there is bug hunting... in Austria...
...on grassy ski-slopes

and in the Italian Appenine mountains

where the size of some of the bugs was pretty impressive and there was need for strategy talks in how to best catch them...

and of course in Sweden at the midsummer party (always a big bug hunting day for Michael)
there is time in Italy to play in the forest, make a city with branches and leaves and to climb trees and pretend to be an owl
and for their birthday in 2011 they received an owl experience - 2 hours hands on learning about owls - it was amazing...
another favourite on holidays are all the lizards...
or getting up close with nature in rockpools at the beach
sometimes we go to parks and zoos to get the opportunity to see animals up close - and even here nature can surprise you - a wild squirrel has become rather tame at Skansen

and if you are lucky when you visit, you are really interesting and you get a close up experience of your life!
but the simple pleasures of finding nature is really the most exciting. It is how we learn so much about our planet, and about ourselves by observing how nature lives with us...
...but maybe not ALL nature is fully appreciated - mosquitoes is not one of our favourites...

Sunday, 21 April 2013

thoughts...

This morning I attended Barnverket's national meeting here in Stockholm, it was day two of the meeting, I missed yesterday due to being sick all week. Its always so interesting and inspiring to meet others who are passionate about providing children with the best possible for their development and learning: to see the whole child and not just parts of the child.

Sometimes I think that the school child is viewed as a "huvudfoting" as the Swedes call it - you know the drawings young children make of people when they are just heads with arms and legs - that there is too much focus on the child filling their heads with information and academia that the only body parts required are the legs to get them to school and their arms to write with.... the rest of the body seems to be just forgotten. The problem is if we view children like this we are missing a HUGE part of the child - we are not teaching the WHOLE child, we are not providing the best possible learning environment.

Anyway, it feels good to be sitting in a room focussed on the WHOLE child - and the phrase "A child's right to grazes" (that children have the right to explore and make mistakes which can include scraped knees and other minor injuries as part of their learning... to read more about this phrase "barnens rätt till skrubbsår" check out Gröna Sinnet's blog about Petter Åkerblom, design architect).

Barnverket is wanting to modify its platform... what does Barnverket want to say, how does Barnverket ensure that we as parents and teachers, and all others interested in the welfare of children, work together to create the best foundations for children to build upon...? And how to put that in to words...

Some really interesting discussions... about how words can be interpreted differently, how to capture the interest of parents etc to engage with Barnverket, and how Barnverket can work with the parents for the children.

My own thoughts included how often preschool, school and fritids (afterschool activity club/centre) is presented as the best option for the development of children, tending to forget that this is only a PART of a child's life. A child has a home and family that are of GREATER importance.
YES, it is essential that preschools etc are of high quality, BUT it is only a PART of a child's development. For young children especially the home is the most important place - otherwise I would not be called mummy (or sometimes daddy) quite as much as I am...
Sometimes I think we need to remember that it is the preschool that is a complement to the home and  not the home as a complement to the preschool... I get the inkling that there might just be be a shift in focus... that maybe preschool is getting too much attention and the importance of HOME and the value of family relationships is not getting the credit it should...
please say I am wrong...

Anyway, I was there just for the morning... I left at lunch and the others kept at it. (BIG applause) I want to be WITH the children at preschool this coming week after being at home with fever aches and pains for the last week so opted for a restf.  So these are the main thoughts... just thought I would share...

Saturday, 20 April 2013

a stroll in the forest

the snow has been melting - which has made the forest really wet

good job we were wearing our wellies!

nature is starting to reclaim our bench...
The bench is on a wild-strawberry covered slope next to our little house in the forest (of course no sign of strawberries yet - but we did see a few promising leaves!!

some of our finds - sadly most of the cones were just tooooooo wet

but there were enough for a small harvest anyway

a basket of natural treasure...

secret treasures of a aquarium shop

Coloured sand - a whole load of colours to choose from - perfect for the sensory table or to put in deep trays for children to draw/write with fingers or brushes. It can also be used in artwork - glued onto paper...

roots and stones to add the natural touch - to build with - to create a whole variety of play-scapes for small figures and animals

lots of different kinds of sands to choose from - from the very fine, to coarse - in various natural colours - white, red, even black...

all sorts of rocks and stones in all sorts of sizes - natural and polished
Of course my children were busy checking out the fishes, lizards, turtles, eels, etc etc (these shops are brilliant places to visit - not just because of all the potential resource there, but the diversity of fish is really beautiful...).


backgrounds for the aquariums could be put to other use at a preschool...
and the images available were really beautiful and included vegetation, underwater scenes as well as desert scenes!